Joe Nickell

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Joe Nickell
Nickell at the 2010
European Skeptics Congress in Budapest
Born (1944-12-01) December 1, 1944 (age 69)
West Liberty, KY
Education Ph.D. in English
Alma mater University of Kentucky
Occupation Senior Research Fellow
Known for CSICOP

Joe Nickell (born December 1, 1944) is a prominent American skeptical investigator of the paranormal. He also works as an historical document consultant[1] and has helped expose such famous forgeries as the purported diary of Jack the Ripper. In 2002 he was one of a number of experts asked by scholar Henry Louis Gates, Jr. to evaluate for authenticity the manuscript of Hannah Crafts' The Bondwoman's Narrative (1853–1860), possibly the first novel by an African-American woman.[2]

Nickell is Senior Research Fellow for the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry (CSI) and writes regularly for their journal, the Skeptical Inquirer. He is also an associate dean of the Center for Inquiry Institute. He is the author or editor of almost 30 books.[3]

Joe Nickell's office 2013


Early life and education[edit]

Nickell holds B.A., M.A., and Ph.D. degrees from the University of Kentucky. His Ph.D. is in English for graduate work focusing on literary investigation and folklore.[4][5]


Nickell has worked professionally as a stage magician, carnival pitchman, private detective, blackjack dealer, riverboat manager, university instructor, author, and paranormal investigator, as well as listing over 200 "personas" on his website.

Nickell has evaluated manuscripts and written works for authenticity, including the purported diary of Jack the Ripper (which he helped to reveal as a forgery), and Hannah Crafts' mid-nineteenth century novel The Bondwoman's Narrative, whose authenticity he supported.

The protagonist of the 2007 horror film The Reaping is loosely based on Joe Nickell. He was brought onto the set to consult with actress Hilary Swank.[6][7]

Public and media appearances[edit]

Joe Nickell (right) during TAM9 in 2011, with Richard Wiseman and Phil Plait

Nickell is frequently consulted by news and television producers for his skeptical opinion.[8][9][10] He was profiled by The New Yorker.[11] Nickell is a recurring guest on Point of Inquiry, and conducts the annual Houdini Seance at the Center for Inquiry every Halloween.[12]

Nickell has appeared on the following national TV shows:[13]


Nickell received the 2004 Isaac Asimov Award from the American Humanist Association and was a co-recipient of the 2005 Robert P. Balles Prize in Critical Thinking, awarded by CSICOP, now called CSI.

He was also presented an award for promotion of science in popular media at the 3rd Annual Independent Investigative Group IIG Awards, held on May 18, 2009.[14]

In October 2011 asteroid 31451 (1999 CE10) was named JoeNickell in his honor by its discoverer James E. McGaha.[15]


  • Inquest on the Shroud of Turin: Latest Scientific Findings (Prometheus Books: Amherst, NY; 1983).
    • Revised edition, 1998.
  • Secrets of the Supernatural: Investigating the World's Occult Mysteries (Prometheus Books: Amherst, NY; 1988, 1991; with John F. Fischer).
  • The Magic Detectives: Join Them in Solving Strange Mysteries (Prometheus Books: Amherst, NY; 1989).
  • Pen, Ink, and Evidence: A Study of Writing and Writing Materials for the Penman, Collector, and Document Detective (Oak Knoll Books: New Castle, DE; 1990, 2000, 2003).
  • Wonder-Workers! How They Perform the Impossible (Prometheus Books: Amherst, NY; 1991).
  • Unsolved History: Investigating Mysteries of the Past, originally published as Ambrose Bierce is Missing and Other Historical Mysteries (University Press of Kentucky: Lexington, KY; 1992, 2005).
  • Missing Pieces: How to Investigate Ghosts, UFOs, Psychics, and Other Mysteries (Prometheus Books: Amherst, NY; 1992; with Robert A. Baker).
  • Mysterious Realms: Probing Paranormal, Historical, and Forensic Enigmas (Prometheus Books: Amherst, NY; 1992; with John F. Fischer).
  • Looking for a Miracle: Weeping Icons, Relics, Stigmata, Visions and Healing Cures (Prometheus Books: Amherst, NY; 1993, 1998).
  • Psychic Sleuths: ESP and Sensational Cases (Prometheus Books: Amherst, NY; 1994).
  • Camera Clues: A Handbook for Photographic Investigation (University Press of Kentucky: Lexington, KY; 1994, 2005).
  • Entities: Angels, Spirits, Demons, and Other Alien Beings (Prometheus Books: Amherst, NY; 1995).
  • Detecting Forgery: Forensic Investigation of Documents (University Press of Kentucky: Lexington, KY; 1996, 2005).
  • The Outer Edge: Classic Investigations of the Paranormal (CSICOP: Amherst, NY; 1996, co-edited with Barry Karr and Tom Genoni).
  • The UFO Invasion: The Roswell Incident, Alien Abductions, and Government Coverups (Prometheus Books: Amherst, NY; 1997; co-edited with Kendrick Frazier and Barry Karr).
  • Crime Science: Methods of Forensic Detection (University Press of Kentucky: Lexington, KY; 1999; with co-author John F. Fischer).
  • Investigating the Paranormal (Barnes & Noble Books: New York; 2004).
  • Real-Life X-Files: Investigating the Paranormal (University Press of Kentucky: Lexington, KY; 2001).
  • The Kentucky Mint Julep (University Press of Kentucky: Lexington, KY; 2003).
  • The Mystery Chronicles: More Real-Life X-Files (University Press of Kentucky: Lexington, KY; 2004).
  • Secrets of the Sideshows (University Press of Kentucky: Lexington, KY; 2005).
  • Cronache del Misterio (Newton Compton editori: Rome, Italy; 2006).
  • Lake Monster Mysteries: Investigating the World's Most Elusive Creatures, University Press of Kentucky: Lexington, KY; 2006; with co-author Benjamin Radford.
  • Relics of the Christ. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky. 2007. ISBN 0-8131-2425-5. 
  • Adventures in Paranormal Investigation, University Press of Kentucky: Lexington, KY; 2007.
  • Real or Fake, University Press of Kentucky: Lexington, KY; 2009.
  • CSI Paranormal, (Inquiry Press): Amherst, NY; 2012.
  • The Science of Ghosts (Prometheus Books: Amherst, NY; 2012).


  1. ^ Historical Document Consultant
  2. ^ Timothy Davies, "Who Was Hannah Crafts?",, 24 Apr 2002, accessed 27 Jul 2009
  3. ^ Nickell, Joe (July–August 2008). "A Skeleton's Tale: The Origins of Modern Spiritualism". Skeptical Inquirer (Committee for Skeptical Inquiry) 32 (4): 20.  The article is about the Fox sisters. He thanks his wife by name in the Acknowledgments.
  4. ^ [1], Literary Detective persona, accessed 2 Dec, 2010
  5. ^ [2], Folklorist persona, accessed 2 Dec, 2010
  6. ^ Alistair Strachan (2007-04-19). "A Paranormal Investigator's Brush With Hollywood". Fortean Times. Retrieved 2012-04-14. 
  7. ^ "The Reaping", CSICOP
  8. ^ "Loren Coleman on new Nessie Footage". YouTube. 2007-06-01. Retrieved 2012-04-14. 
  9. ^ "CNN - Joe Nickell and the Exorcist". YouTube. 2008-11-01. Retrieved 2012-04-14. 
  10. ^ Sullivan, Stephen D. (2008-09-24). "MONSTERQUEST: Lake Monsters of the North". Retrieved 2012-04-14. 
  11. ^ "Waiting for Ghosts: The many careers of Joe Nickell, paranormal investigator"
  12. ^ "Audio of The 11th Annual Houdini Seance", CSICOP
  13. ^ Skeptical Inquirer columnist Joe Nickell on Tour
  14. ^ "IIG | The IIG Awards". 2010-08-21. Retrieved 2011-07-01. 
  15. ^ "31451 Joenickell (1999 CE10)". JPL Small-Body Database Browser. NASA. October 12, 2011. Retrieved October 31, 2011. 

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